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5472: Haiti Jury Convicts 16 Ex-Army Members In Coup Massacre (fwd)
From: "BriceWebb, Carline" <CBriceWebb@oas.org>
Wall Street Journal
Haiti Jury Convicts 16 Ex-Army Members In Coup Massacre
Dow Jones Newswires
GONAIVES, Haiti (AP)--In a landmark case billed as the trial of Haiti's
murderous coup regime, 16 former soldiers and their henchmen were convicted
Friday in a 1994 massacre of slumdwellers.
The jury sat until after midnight before pronouncing its decision early
Judge Napla Saintil sentenced 12 defendants - eight of them ex-soldiers - to
life imprisonment with hard labor. Another four henchmen were sentenced to
between four and nine years' jail. Six people were acquitted.
Saintil also ruled that all the convicted men's property would be
confiscated if they fail to pay 50,000 gourdes each in damages to 15 victims
- an amount 10 times the average annual income in Haiti.
"Justice is a debt the state owes the citizen," Saintil said.
The 22 defendants had pleaded innocent to crimes ranging from criminal
conspiracy to torture and murder. Their faces showed no expression as they
heard the verdict, pronounced after the 12 jurors had deliberated for five
Another 38 people charged with masterminding the killings, who all live in
exile, will be tried separately starting Monday, said Justice Minister
Camille Leblanc. They include former coup leader Raoul Cedras and his close
associate Philippe Biamby, who received asylum in Panama; former
Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois, who is in Honduras; and
paramilitary leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, who lives in New York City.
The trial of the others, which began Sept. 29, "revealed the role of the
army high command in the massacre. In this sense, it was the trial of the
coup d'etat," Leblanc said.
The Raboteau slayings were part of a series of attacks undertaken to break
support for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic slum
priest who became the Caribbean country's first democratically elected
leader in 1991.
Soldiers and their thugs killed at least 3,000 people and maimed thousands
more before U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1994 sent 20,000 troops to end
the bloodshed and halt an exodus of boat people to Florida.
Aristide was restored and the army was abolished. Aristide was succeeded by
his hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval.
Under both men, only a handful of soldiers and militiamen have been tried
for coup-related crimes and no more than two or three have been convicted.
The most infamous of those convicted are former Capt. Castera Cenafils, 47,
and a paramilitary leader, Jean Pierre Tatoune, 43. Both were sentenced to
life at hard labor.